IU East Asia News
In April, Indiana University sponsored an exhibit space as part of a recent International Festival held at Danville High School in Illinois. Jeremie Smith, outreach coordinator for the Center for Global Studies at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, said that the unique event offered many students “their first in-depth experience learning about diverse cultures, encountering non-European languages, and seeing the connections between their own community and the increasingly globalized world.” A local news outlet published a report on the event, available here. The festival was attended by some 1000 students, teachers, volunteers and community members.
IU’s collective display consisted of school bags and typical contents from different cultures, including Guatemala, Mexico, China, Germany, Japan, Romania, South Africa, and Turkmenistan.
No one seems to question anymore the fact that China has become a major world player. But it’s not in the game alone, as an expert panel emphasized at the April 24 conference titled “China, Russia, and the World: Focus on Africa”. This conference, organized by the Russian and East European Institute in collaboration with EASC and the African Studies Program, brought together a wide range of disciplines to explore development issues faced by a rapidly-modernizing African continent. Panelists included Padraig Carmody of Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland; Maxim Matusevich of Seton Hall University; and Tang Xiaoyang of Tsinghua University in Beijing. The panel was joined by two IU faculty discussants, Gardner Bovingdon of Central Eurasian Studies and historian Alex Lichtenstein.
Carmody, a geographer, outlined some of the dynamics of the “race for resources” currently underway in Africa, where external powers have been scrambling for mineral, petroleum and other resources in which the continent abounds. Infrastructural installations in Africa remain relatively under-developed, and this creates a need for the participation of technology-rich economies like China to help move product quickly enough to meet demand. Chinese investors have also been quick to establish companies in multiple sectors, including manufacturing, construction, energy and telecommunications. Tang Xiaoyang, whose presentation was delivered via Skype, noted that interactions between Chinese and African employees are often marked by a certain dissension and lack of mutual understanding. Africans are generally not offered positions in highly technical vocations or in the upper echelons of company management. Further, in some cases they complain against the Chinese businessmen for instituting an unsafe work environment and unsuitable living conditions. As Tang explained, certain cultural stereotypes may often be at work that hinder more effective cooperation, such as the Chinese assumption that Africans are “lazy,” or Africans’ insistence that Chinese work schedule “cannot be done by human beings.” Carmody pointed out that while corrupt governments do exist in Africa and have benefited from increased trade, this does not necessarily augment their actual “agency,” that is, the ability to shift the status quo at will. In essence, if they have had an increase in power, it is over their own citizenry and not the international community. Autocratic governments in Africa have been reassured by the Chinese model of economic investment that their “sovereignty comes first.” That is to say, China does not interfere with despotic African regimes because it expects the same hands-off treatment from international actors vis-à-vis its own domestic policy. Carmody prefers to conceptualize the dynamics of exercising power in Africa in terms of networks, or “assemblages,” rather than viewing power as something invested in individuals without regard to outside legitimating or perpetuating forces.
Matusevich, meanwhile, shed light on the Russian side of the equation. He said that while Russia has historically contributed to “prestige projects” in Africa, such as the construction of massive dams or launching satellites, in practical terms, there doesn’t seem to be much that Russia has to offer. He suggested that Russia reflect on what it can do for Africa, this way it can continue to be an integral player in future development on the continent.
When media expert Albert Chang-Hwa Wang earned his PhD in Instructional Systems Technology from Indiana University in 1991, cell phones had hardly appeared on the scene, much less superseded the land line. In step with technological advances in telecommunications over the past quarter-century, the basic structure of media – or those means by which humans transmit information – has also been radically changing. The evolution is ongoing and constantly presents new challenges and possibilities. Some of these have materialized in the realm of language instruction, and this was precisely the topic of Wang’s special EASC lecture that took place on April 1, titled “A Mobile-game Approach for Recognizing Chinese Language and Culture.”
Wang, who is currently serving as a visiting scholar at EASC, described to the audience his recent research project in terms of combining interactive mobile games with language instruction techniques. One project, a game that gives players directions that they have to follow, guides Chinese learners to put their newly acquired skills to use in a real-life environment. For example, after learning the phrase “How much does this cost?,” a player might be directed by the game to visit a convenience store and ask the cashier about the price of various items. The conversation is recorded and sent to a central processor for evaluation. Those who perform well not only win the game but noticeably improve their conversational skills. Developments in technology and media such as Wang’s “mixed reality” Chinese learning game are certain to continue providing innovative new methods for effectively mastering foreign languages, which is good news for Chinese teachers and learners alike.
The 20th Annual Lotus Blossoms World Bazaar took place on Friday, March 27 and Saturday, March 28 at Binford Elementary School in Bloomington, IN, with an estimated 1,250 children and adults attending. The first day was set aside for Bloomington-area fourth graders. On Saturday, everyone, young and old, was invited to attend the Family Day from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. for international music, dance, crafts, games, food sampling, and other fun activities. The East Asian Studies Center, with help from our wonderful volunteers, hosted activities such as Korean fan making, Chinese lantern crafts, and Year of the Sheep coloring.
EASC volunteers, in addition to assisting with activities, shared their experience and knowledge of East Asia with children and adults alike at the EASC table, as well as at the bazaar’s World Language table.
In conjunction with this year’s Lotus Blossoms, EASC helped bring acclaimed Japanese origami artist and storyteller Kuniko Yamamoto to Bloomington. Kuniko breathed fresh life into ancient Japanese myths and folktales with her engaging performances, reaching more than 800 elementary school children in the Bloomington area. Kuniko also put on an impromptu performance at Bell Trace, a senior living community in Bloomington. She wrapped up her visit to Indiana with performances at the Mathers Museum and Monroe County Public Library as part of the Lotus Blossoms free concert series.
EASC is a proud sponsor of Lotus Blossoms, which since 1996 has brought the music and art of global cultures directly to the schools of southern Indiana. For more information, please visit the Lotus Blossoms Web site.
On March 24, EASC, in partnership with IU’s Chinese Flagship Center, organized a documentary film screening of Chai Jing’s Qiongding zhi xia 穹頂之下 (Under the Dome). The screening was preceded by a Chinese Tidings Lecture, presented by Li Mingjie, a visiting scholar at Indiana University’s Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology. The theme of the combined event was addressing China’s growing environmental problems, which are an outgrowth of several decades of rampant economic development combined with lax governmental supervision and legislation. Under the Dome examines these issues from a personal perspective, sharing the story of Chai Jing’s daughter, who was born with a lung tumor, and documenting Chai’s transition from TV personality to environmental crusader. Li Mingjie’s lecture focused on the role that the internet and catchwords play in the spread of environmental movements in China.
Return to top of page >
Adam Liff Offers New Course on International Relations in East Asia
Incoming EALC assistant professor Adam Liff will be offering new courses on international relations in East Asia this fall. These courses, offered at both the graduate and undergraduate level, will be cross-listed with the Department of Political Science. The intensive graduate seminar will concentrate on the Cold War and post-Cold War international relations of East Asia, with particular focus on China/Taiwan, Japan, the Koreas, and the United States.
IU Chinese Language Students Dazzle at Speech Competitions, Publish Essays in Chinese Language Journal
Indiana University held its annual Chinese Speech competition on March 7. Contestants competed in different groups according to the level of Chinese instruction in which they are enrolled, 1st-year, 2nd-year and so on. There is also a special category reserved for “heritage speakers.” An article reporting on the contest was published in a local Chinese-language periodical, Asian American Today. This article may be accessed here. According to the report, more than 30 contestants participated in this year’s speech competition. Some of them went on to compete in the US Midwest Regional 14th Annual “Chinese Bridge” Speech Contest, held in April at Notre Dame University. The article features photos of 1st-prize winners, student performances, and group shots, as well as 5 flagship students’ essays.
Nine IU students spent Easter weekend demonstrating their Chinese skills. They competed with students from 15 universities at the Midwest Chinese Speech Contest on Saturday, April 18. At this event, held at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana, the IU team took three gold medals, two silver and four bronze. The team members come from the Chinese Flagship Center and Chinese Language Program at IU’s department of East Asian Languages and Cultures:
Matthew Rood (First year Chinese, Flagship student): Gold medal
Hope Marshall (First year Chinese): Gold medal
Jonny Gooder (First year Chinese, Flagship student): Silver medal
Tyler Bennett (First year Chinese, Flagship student): Bronze medal
Sienna Gonzalez (First year Chinese, Flagship student): Bronze medal
Jordan Andreanopoulos (Second year Chinese, Flagship student): Silver medal
Nick Ceryak (Third year Chinese, Flagship student): Bronze medal
JZ Forbes (Third year Chinese, Flagship student): Bronze medal
Nate Stein (Fourth year Chinese, Flagship student): Gold medal, will participate in the 2015 Chinese Bridge Speech Contest in Hunan as an observant in July.
Another group of seven IU students from the Chinese Language Program and the Flagship also participated in the Indy Chinese Language and Culture Fair sponsored by the ICLASS and the IUPUI Confucius Institute on Saturday, April 11. This group received the following awards:
Level 2-First year Chinese (both Flagship students)
1st prize: Sienna Gonzalez
3rd prize: Sara Wise
Level 3-Second year Chinese (all non-Flagship students)
2nd prize: Stefani Jordan Trajkovski, NaYoung Lee
3rd prize: Jungmin Shin, KeunYoung Chang, Nikita Quynchi Haduong
Juhe Journal, printed by the University of Iowa, is dedicated to the publication of quality Chinese essays by learners of Chinese as a foreign language for the purpose of promoting Chinese study in North America. This year, 7 IU students’ compositions were selected for publication:
First-year Chinese: Amira Ahmad Shamsul Baharin
Second-year Chinese: Anna Tam, Stephanie Xin, Stefani Trajkovski
Fourth-year Chinese: Melissa Auyeung,
Fifth-year Chinese: Zachary Ignoffo, Jordan Sanner
On January 27, noted translator of Chinese Buddhist texts Bill Porter delivered a lecture at Indiana University titled “Hermits and Zen: Solitary and Communal Practice in China.” Drawing from a wealth of personal experience living at a Buddhist monastery in Taiwan and ample travels in mainland China, Porter conveyed a sense of the exotic mundanity that characterizes the life of a modern-day hermit, or Buddhist practitioner who isolates him or herself from the world, usually domiciling in remote mountainous areas, for the purpose of gaining religious discipline and understanding. Porter said that for Buddhists who aspire to be leaders of monasteries, roughing it in the woods for a few years has become practically a pre-requisite, and may be thought of as the religious equivalent of “getting a PhD.”
Porter’s well-received translations range from poetry collections to canonical works like the Daodejing. He currently resides in Port Townsend, Washington.